Test Information Space

Journal of Tech, Testing and Trends

Archive for November, 2007

Dots and Dashes

Posted by cadsmith on November 28, 2007

Graphs allow a viewer to connect the dots concerning input data. Automobile drivers are accustomed to viewing the status of their car’s subsystems on the dashboard. Analog and digital displays reveal information at a glance. A simple case indicates component status, e.g. active/inactive, online/offline, and functional/degraded. Displays are also used on test equipment such as a scope to show the instantaneous values of measurements and settings. A display like this can also be web-based, desktop, mobile, or on a dedicated station. For example a graph can be derived from excel spreadsheets. This is used to monitor metrics, highlight unexpected results or events, and possibly communicate to other systems or necessary responders. A more sophisticated test info management system can reveal raw input or metadata, execute anywhere, allow user-preferences to be saved and restored, handle distributed sources, allow extendable mashups, provide communication capabilities, and connect to a general info system for enterprise status. These can be prototyped using simulated inputs and virtual machines or test drives. Script collaboration allows multiple gadgets or services to be made available across various databases or sources and output to different styles of logs, reports, or web content. The test system itself allows verification of its own operations and ability to add functionality. More interactive controls convert this into an instrument console. Modularization, rules, checks and automation can be used as part of design for other components or systems. A dashboard can make the process easier to observe.

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Site Seeing

Posted by cadsmith on November 25, 2007

Reviewed RESTful Web Services, Richardson and Ruby, 2007, 446 pp. Representational State Transfer (REST) goes with the grain basic web services to develop a resource-oriented architecture (ROA). It is an alternative to SOAP and Web service description language (WSDL). A hybrid version using remote procedure calls (RPC) is implemented on API sites such as del.icio.us and flickr, Amazon E-commerce, and Yahoo! search, and utilities including Atom Publishing Protocol (APP), Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), and Google GData. The results are more addressable, cacheable, stateless and well-connected since URIs and links are exposed and HTTP is exploited. Examples are shown using AJAX, Javascript object notation (JSON) and a variety of frameworks. Authors’ sites: Richardson, Ruby.

In addition to client/server approaches, there is network metadata. While looking for ways to determine affinity between ISPs, e.g. with respect to services or members, ran across some interesting resources. InFlow author, and social-network-analysis theorist, Valdis Krebs reported on a discussion thread that his software can be used to show what networks have in common along with data mining uses. Another tool to display how elements are related, and which has gadgets for popular services, is Touchgraph for Google sites, Amazon books, and Facebook friends. Prospective service providers can map out various segments to determine how things are working and what might favorably be added.

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Human Research Engines

Posted by cadsmith on November 21, 2007

Reviewed Information Trapping: Real-Time Research on the Web, Calishain, 2006, 328pp. Information traps allow the user to set and forget search details until new results are ready for evaluation. Datastreams may be sourced from search engines, news, blogs, web pages, tagged content, site links, multimedia or conversation groups. Domains may contain commercial or government sites, for example. The input can be filtered through email, client-based, or web-based tools. Results may then be edited and published to email alerts or mailing lists, documents, web sites, or cell phones. Advanced search queries using keywords are covered in depth for engines such as google, yahoo, ask or msn live. These usually involve nouns to monitor data about a thing, person or place. A couple of chapters discuss various aspects of RSS feeds. The traps are refined over time for variables such as what is of interest, where to look, how often, and in what format to review results. Many links are given to web resources in each category. Author’s blog. This covers techniques for automating search using existing utilities. It complements some of the other references discussed previously for structuring a system to emphasize findability, creating scripts to analyze information, or mashups.

Another aspect that has become popular is social-powered search. This involves people who locate or rank results before they are presented to the user. Chacha, Mahalo and recently Searchamigo implement this. Kindle NowNow does it for a portable book reader. Younanimous Aftervote and URL do meta-search. The latter and Sproose allow users to vote on preferences. Mosio handles mobile phone texting. 50matches limits to sites selected by users. myshoppingpal is recent and specialized in its subject matter. Goodsearch donates to user-preferred charities.

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Inform Arch

Posted by cadsmith on November 16, 2007

Reviewed Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Morville and Rosenfeld, 3rd edition, 2006, 456pp. Information architecture (IA) defines systems for organization, labeling, navigation, search, thesauri, vocabularies and metadata. Early techniques were derived from library science, and now cover the web and any information environments that value usability and findability, IA has a symbiotic relationship with business strategy. The book covers principles, methods, practices and organizational effects. Case studies are included for large efforts such as MSWeb and evolt.org, and many links are given for examples of other types such as communities, directories, literature, education and conferences. There are a variety of interesting topics, e.g. hierarchies can be single, polyhierarchies such as biological species, or multi-hierarchies such as faceted classifications; usability looks at affinity model of how data notes or cards are placed in categories. usability engineering includes testing; metadata-driven model allows user to describe document so software and vocabulary systems place the contents; Interwoven.com metatagger analyzes new content and automatically links from other pages; and, in order to describe what they know, subject matter experts (SMEs) can use klogs (knowledge blogs). Third edition has added navigation systems that use tag clouds, tailor pages to user, allow user mods, observe actions of others, offer favorites, use collaborative filtering, or make recommendations. Authors’ sites: semanticstudios, louisrosenfeld, findability, videos on Findability.
This also describes how architectural testing occurs as part of TACT, a way to translate research to strategy after thinking, articulating and communicating. Tests are used to validate the chosen strategy. A range of prototypes can be exercised from wireframe through full-scale web models or actual sites. This can involve focus groups, adding new documents, closed card sorting, and navigation performance analysis. For example, a general question might be how to find a particular piece of information which changes value over time. Testing and refinement often form an iterative process. There is also overlap between this and interface design.

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Cosmic Raise

Posted by cadsmith on November 13, 2007

The news that Google is offering prizes from 1/2/08-3/3/08 of 25k-275k totalling 10M seems to have hit the atmosphere with the force of a cell phone. There may be more to the forces of acceleration that meets the G. Initial themes include communications, devices, and mobile, along with the business increasing shares of ad revenue and ISPs. One would expect immediate port of existing applications to gphone, as well as development of new types of apps and hardware. Competitor responses follow. Here are some marginal phenomena that may be drawn in: other phone emulation, Voice i/f, Socnet (Blogs, pix, video, publishing, Socnet analysis, what users do or buy, who connects), Office (Enterprise integration), Web integration (Search, geo, directories), User-preferences, Purchases, Database (Data capture, input aggregation, administration, academic, industry, medical), Games, Entertainment, news, music, Controls, device integration, embedded systems, Security, Education, Localization, translation, semantic, scientific, 3D, s/w radio, global swarming and off-duty writers dealing with time-travelling Romulans. Hopefully there will also be improved ergonomics for hand-eye coordination. Having named all of this, what else might be interesting to you?

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Posted by cadsmith on November 12, 2007

An Introduction to Testing Web Applications with twill and Selenium”, Brown & others, 2007, documents the automated web testing tools twill, scotch and Selenium. twill is a Python shell ,v2.3 or later, providing commands for HTTP browsing, form completion, variables, cookies and debugging. It can be further extended by the user. Scotch is a python recorder and player based on web server gateway interface (WSGI). Selenium adds Javascript and AJAX to a browser to create test suites. It features variable execution speed control; example tests are linked to be run online. Django is a rapid development framework that is used as the subject of functional tests. Wiki page.

Video by original developer explains the origin of Selenium and usefulness for web testing on variety of browsers.

Selenium Remote Control (RC) parallelization across a server farm is analyzed on video. This was faster using Chrome and Firefox Chrome browsers. A test isolation issue reportedly occurred on Internet Explorer and Safari which required serialization since cookie collisions would occur, e.g. due to windows registry modifications.

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Who Ordered the Code Read?

Posted by cadsmith on November 10, 2007

Reviewed The Stuff of Thought, Pinker, 2007. This perceptive book is a Pinkerian parade of poems, paintings and percussion. The author shows a “word’s eye view” of human nature leading the way out of the cave through powerful conceptual combinations. The nonordinary conversations overhead in public or at the office are explained as well as some things that Kant otherwise be grudged. Words command the whole human mind, breach most barriers, and teach things that one might not have originally desired to learn. This includes how things and people are named, and the emotions behind swearing. The master of metaphor never arrived. Humans have various models of reality in their heads and that they project to others. The issues around free speech versus audience sensibilities are commented on. Video presentations by the author about the publication also exist on the web.

This book may be relevant for its discussion of how names are picked, such as bootup, and the design or documentation of interactions between things including mind-machine interfaces. e.g. “…the human mind and commercial digital computers are two examples of the category ‘computational system’” (p259).

Test Driven Ajax (on Rails)“, Plumlee, 2007, describes how to run tests from a wiki. The test framework is prototyped and production code added incrementally. Ajax allows it to handle a variety of browser interfaces. Javascript adds dynamic web page updates. Examples are shown for MAC OSX. Regression tests are organized to protect existing code while allowing the user to be automatically notified if functional extensions have errors. Additional wiki pages can also be added to test previous ones. Wiki page.

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Posted by cadsmith on November 8, 2007

Reviewed SOA: Principles of Service Design, Erl, 2007. Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) provides the benefits of applications that span across software vendors, database formats and equipment. For example, timesheet or invoice frontends use services as building blocks connected to eachother and different backend systems all of which may be implemented at different times. The author defines fundamental concepts, discusses the design aspects of architecture and provides several case studies. Principles include abstraction, reusability, loose coupling between services and consumers, autonomy, statelessness, discoverability, and composability. Strategic goals drive how these are expressed across requirements, ROI, interoperability, agility and IT. Differences from object-oriented architecture are outlined, e.g. services do not generally use inheritance. Presents good practices and organizational roles. Displays diagrams showing how concepts relate. This 608 page textbook provides a theoretical background for enterprise system architecture creation or expansion. Author’s sites: soaspecs, thomaserl.

Did not explicitly discuss the semantic web, though they both begin with the same letter or two. Others have looked at how one can wrap the other, e.g. use of ontologies.

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Big Broker

Posted by cadsmith on November 6, 2007

Reviewed The Global Brain: Your Roadmap for Innovating Faster and Smarter in a Networked World, Nambisan and Sawhney, 2007, 304pp. Book site. Author sites: Nambisan, Sawhney.

http://activist.blogs.com/networkcentricadvocacypaper.pdf 2006
http://echochamberproject.com/ collaborative documentary on pre-war performance of the media

On a separate track, added Prediction market page to test wiki. These have been popular for simulating stock markets for sports and media, so seemed useful concept in quality improvement efforts.

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Posted by cadsmith on November 1, 2007

Reviewed The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What It Means for All of Us, Meredith, 2007. Interpreting the state of the world as seen through Chinese and Indian lenses locates major shifts in the near future. The pair are characterized as yin and yang. They assume the head positions on the long tail of state economies displacing US and Japan. International relations are in a phase of “permafrost peacetime”. Issues are jobs, demand for resources including petroleum, modernizing military, and pollution. There are plenty of ground-level examples, trend projections, profiles of business and political decision makers, and statistics. The author lives in Hong Kong.

A few brief excerpts reorganized as a timetable:

Origins: Capitalism succeeded communism, colonialism, socialism and nationalism.

2006: China has world’s largest dollar reserves at about 1.1 trillion. Exchange rates set to hold renminbi 405 below market for export advantage.

2008: Olympics set the West’s image of China. China is world’s factory, India is back office. They both have advantage of lower cost workers; Chinese earn 1/10th of US on average. Each of the pair is growing 3x faster than US & Japan. Customer’s design products to taste over internet; supply chain is mixed globally. West dominates manufacturing automation. In India 1/3 population not yet working age; literacy has reached only half of female population. The poor vote and the middle class does not in contrast to the US, so political reforms slow development, e.g. if infrastructure not built and investors lose interest. China’s population is aging; 1 working age person supports 2 parents & 4 grandparents. National dissent is a response to official corruption which reduces citizens’ incomes. Mainland slow to adopt democracy; Communist party has little opposition.

2015: Growth stabilizes; environmental problems are major issue. China is at economic parity with US. 3.3M jobs have moved offshore from US which depends on Chinese consumers.

2020: China matches US oil demand of 10 million barrels a day. If India needs same, then there is not enough supply.

2050: India’s population expected to be 1.6 billion, more than China’s 1.4B. They will have 500M more workers than US, 230M more than China.

Risky scenarios: Terrorist events slow growth. Japan and Taiwan relations with China affect US since China has anti-satellite and ship missiles and is considering an aircraft carrier. If China dumps dollars too fast, may cause US and world-wide economic meltdown. End of US housing bubble could reduce business demand in India. Downturns in companies like Wal-Mart affect China.”

May also be relevant to technology agendas to complement economic and political approaches to solutions. For example, user can setup preference via web front ends connected to products, design, back office, factory, and purchase. This encapsulates a population of state (and non-state) economies, representative services, networks. Might be an option to add an economy, proto the design, show metrics. Can also add abstractions (or objects) for technology, social movements, medical, or academic. Simple case might be voting having a login, issue and position selection to be read asynchronously at election time. Logic is useful to identify constraints, trade-offs and suggest options or show where aggregate designs might be appropriate and effective. Resultant database or network might illustrate all places where design, user or proxy might be a component. Ideally a big company does not end up having the sole patent to this.

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